The move toward full communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches is prompted by the Holy Spirit. It is the most important development of the Third Christian Millennium. It has extraordinary implications for the West, indeed for the whole world, at a critical time in history. Let us pray that it happens - for the sake of a world still waiting to be set free and reborn into the New World of the Church.
Metropolitan Hilarion met with Cardinal Walter Kasper the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity at the Council's library in the Vatican. They discussed the work of the Joint Commission for Orthodox-Catholic dialogue. That work has involved fruitful mutual discussions on the role of the Bishop of Rome in the first millennium.
ROME, Italy (Catholic Online) - First, I must lay all my cards on the table. I long for the full communion of the Orthodox and Catholic Church. I pray daily for the full communion of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. I do so because I believe it is the will of God that "All May be One" (John 17: 21). I also believe that the healing of the division between the two churches would unleash a profound renewal of the entire Church at the dawn of what I believe is a new missionary age. I believe that the gifts found in the whole Church will enrich both East and West and assist us in the mission which we must face together in our One Lord.
I long for this full communion because I believe that as the West implodes under the fierce ravages of what Pope Benedict XVI properly called a "Dictatorship of Relativism" it is only the real humanism found in the fullness of truth revealed in Jesus Christ which can save the West from rushing over a cliff to its own demise. The West needs the Church to once again become its soul in this age which has lost its moral compass.
I long for this full communion because, as a "revert", one who returned to my Catholic faith as a young man, I walked the way home by way of the early Church Fathers. Had I not had been baptized a Catholic of the Latin Rite; I might have become an Eastern Christian. As the decades of my life have unfolded, including my theological studies and ordination to the Order of Deacon, my vision and theological viewpoint are profoundly Eastern. So too is my worship. I have long prayed with icons and love the Divine Liturgy. However, I cherish the unity that comes with the Chair of Peter.
Let me be clear, I am deeply and happily ensconced in the Roman Catholic Church. I am glad that I have authorization to serve the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Church. For a number of years I had the privilege of regularly serving the Divine Liturgy and I miss it. I love the Liturgy, East and West, however I find the depth of the Mystery is beautiful captured in the Liturgy of the East. There is a Latin maxim that addresses the centrality of worship in the life, identity and mission of the whole Church; "Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi". It means that the law of prayer or worship is the law of belief and the law of life. Or, even more popularly rendered, as we worship, so will we believe and live!
Worship is not an "add on" for a Catholic or an Orthodox Christian. It is the foundation of Catholic and Orthodox identity; expressing our highest purpose. Worship reveals how we view ourselves in relationship to God, one another and the world into which we are sent to carry forward the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ. How the Church worships is a prophetic witness to the truth of what she professes. Good worship becomes a dynamic means of drawing the entire human community into the fullness of life in Jesus Christ, lived out in the communion of the Church. It attracts - through beauty to Beauty. Worship informs and transforms both the person and the community which participates in it. There is reciprocity between worship and life.
Finally, I long for this coming full communion of East and West because my oldest son is an Orthodox Christian. He, his wife and their children are all practicing Orthodox Christians. I must admit that the more I visit them these days the more I appreciate the beauty of the interweaving of faith and life which comes with Eastern Christianity and its practices. Yet, the more painful our separation at the Altar, the Eucharistic Table, also becomes.I believe it gives me a glimpse into the very heart of the Lord who longs for our unity.
So, yes, I watch for every sign that the two lungs of the One Church are beginning to fill with the one breath of Divine Life, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit alone can animate the One New Man, Jesus Christ, to heal the division which has gone on for too long in His Body. Yes, I watch with the eyes of living faith. Some say I see these developments with what they would call "Rose Colored glasses". If I do see through the color of rose, it is because the color symbolizes the hope which comes from faith in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. It is also because of my bedrock conviction concerning His one plan for His One Church.
This past week, on May 19 and 20, 2010 the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Moscow Patriarchate cosponsored a Day honoring Russian Culture and Faith in the Vatican. It was one of a growing number of meetings between the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Holy See. Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, the head of external affairs for the Moscow Patriarchate and one of the brightest and most dynamic leaders of the Orthodox Church delivered a message of greeting from Patriarch Kirill at a concert of Russian music in the Vatican attended by the Pope. Archbishop Hilarion is an accomplished musician and an extraordinary theologian and scholar.
The concert presented music by Russian composers. It included a work by Metropolitan Hilarion called the "Song of the Ascension." It highlighted the spirit of the meetings which were filled with hope. Last September, Metropolitan Hilarion and Pope Benedict XVI agreed to foster such meetings. They are part of a growing collaboration between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Together we face the wasteland of Western Culture resulting from the collapse of Christian influence and we have rediscovered one another as brothers. Together we greeting the "post-modern/neo-pagan" challenge of our age, not with despair but with a solid mutual commitment to re- evangelize the West and do what the Church is called to do in every age.
There is more than speculation surrounding an upcoming meeting between Patriarch Kirill I and Pope Benedict XVI. The Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II is only one of the several leaders trying to arrange it. He has offered Cyprus as a place where such an historic summit could occur. Archbishop Chrysostomos II counseled the Orthodox Christians in that land to stay calm in the face of pushback from the dissident Pancyprian Orthodox Christian Movement. They are strongly opposed to the growing relationship between the Catholic and Orthodox leadership. However, they will not be able to stem the momentum of the Holy Spirit.
Pope Benedict XVI will visit Cyprus on June 4 - 6, 2010 and engage in discussions with Orthodox leaders. The Pope's visit to Cyprus will end with a Mass at the Eleftheria Stadium in Nicosia. During his Cyprus trip the Pope will set forth in more detail the topics which will be discussed in an upcoming meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the Middle East which is scheduled for October.
Metropolitan Hilarion favors a formal meeting between the Pope and Patriarch Kirill I in the near future. He told a recent Press conference that this meeting "should be a historic event, not just because it is the first meeting between the head of the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, but especially because such a meeting must be sign of the intention to move our relations forward".
During the two days of cultural meetings in Rome, Metropolitan Hilarion presided over the Divine Liturgy at the burial site of St. Peter in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Concelebrating were Archbishops Kirill of Yaroslavl and Rostov and Feognost of Sergiev Posad. We have chosen that extraordinary photo as the main image to accompany this article. It is a profound visual reminder that the One Church existed, with legitimate diversity in the bond of unity, for the entire First Millennium of Christianity. It is a reminder as well that it can exist that way once again in the Third Millennium of Christianity. In the words of the Angel given to the Mother of God "Nothing is impossible with God". (Luke 1:37)
On Wednesday May 19, 2010 Metropolitan Hilarion met with Cardinal Walter Kasper the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity at the Council's library in the Vatican. They discussed the work of the Joint Commission for Orthodox-Catholic dialogue. That work has involved fruitful mutual discussions on the role of the Bishop of Rome in the first millennium. Attending the talk along with Bishop Hilarion and Cardinal Kasper were the vice-president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Council the Revd. Milan Zust, DECR deputy chairman hegumen Philipp (Ryabykh), and acting DECR secretary for Inter-Christian relations priest Dimitry Sizonenko.
At the meeting, Cardinal Kasper presented Metropolitan Hilarion with his books 'The God of Christians" and "Jesus Christ." Metropolitan Hilarion presented Cardinal Kasper with his book "The Mystery of Faith". The warmth and brotherly affection which characterized that exchange of gifts is a symbol of the work underway, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The move toward full communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches is prompted by the Holy Spirit. It is the most important development of the Third Christian Millennium. It has extraordinary implications for the West, indeed for the whole world, at a critical time in history. It will continue and it will result in the healing of the wounds which for too long have separated the Church.
Yes, the Orthodox and Catholic Bond Deepens. Will the Two Lungs of the Church, East and West Breathe Together Again? As we approach the celebration of Pentecost, the Birthday of the Church, let us pray that it does indeed happen - for the sake of a world still waiting to be set free and reborn into the New World of the Church.
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